SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film has now reopened after five months with new safety protocols in place. By popular demand, the museum has extended its acclaimed spring exhibitions for visitors through this fall season. One of the dynamic exhibitions is Alaïa-Adrian: Masters of Ct, featuring timeless designs by legends of style Azzedine Alaïa and Gilbert Adrian that will now be on view through November 15, 2020.
Masters of Cut brings together sleek designs and impeccably tailored looks by beloved designers Azzedine Alaïa (1935–2017) and Gilbert Adrian (1903–1959). Garments on view display the intricate detailing of Adrian’s suits — the mitered stripes, clever seaming, and unexpected appliqués — in dialogue with Alaïa’s body-celebrating designs.
“Our SCAD FASH exhibition of Alaïa and Adrian conveys the unique energy of a couturier collected by a couturier,” said SCAD President and Founder Paula Wallace. “The young Azzedine Alaïa so admired Gilbert Adrian — famous for Dorothy’s luminous ruby-red slippers and much more — that he ultimately collected more than 150 of Adrian’s original pieces. Genius knows genius! Using the precision of laser cutting to achieve designs perfectly fitted to the body, Alaïa himself, like Adrian before him, became an exacting master of intricate and elegant couture.”
Widely known for his fanciful designs for The Wizard of Oz, Adrian was the head of costume design for MGM during the Golden Age of Hollywood (1928–41). His garments for stars like Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, and Norma Shearer were praised by the fashion press and emulated by stylish moviegoers worldwide.
Alaïa, who trained as a sculptor, left Tunisia for Paris in the mid-1950s to pursue fashion design. His gift of construction and his obsession with cut and fit shaped garments that are unrivaled in accentuating the female form. Recognized internationally in the 1980s and early ’90s for designs draping iconic supermodels Naomi Campbell, Stephanie Seymour, and Linda Evangelista, Alaïa continued to dominate the world of fashion throughout his celebrated career.
Alaïa-Adrian: Masters of Cut is curated by fashion historian and curator Olivier Saillard and organized for SCAD FASH by Rafael Gomes, director of fashion exhibitions. We spoke with Rafael about the exhibition’s importance and what visitors can expect when they visit the museum.
Please tell us how this exhibition came about and why SCAD FASH wanted to bring it to Atlanta?
Rafael Gomes: President Wallace had an opportunity to visit the Azzedine Alaïa Foundation in Paris. When she saw the garments displayed on these incredible, invisible “ghost” mannequins, she knew that she wanted to bring the exhibition to Atlanta. The themes of the exhibition, craftsmanship, and tailoring, as well as exploring a dialogue between two master designers, appealed to her as amazing teaching tools for our students. Also, this is the first Alaïa exhibition in the USA since 20 years. From there, it was a matter of adapting the pieces to an exhibition that worked in our galleries.
Will you elaborate on the relationship between these two legendary designers and why they are being exhibited together? Also, why were they so influential in their respective industries?
Rafael: In addition to being a fashion designer, Azzedine Alaïa was also a serious collector of both fine art and garments from other fashion designers. The Gilbert Adrian suits, on display at SCAD FASH, are a part of Alaïa’s personal collection that is the biggest fashion private collection worldwide.
Alaïa first learned about Adrian through his career as a costume designer for MGM during the Golden Age of Hollywood; Alaïa was a huge fan of the actress Greta Garbo and Adrian personally designed most of her on-screen looks. Showing the work of Gilbert Adrian is exciting to us as it speaks to SCAD FASH’s mission as the only museum of both fashion and film! Alaïa’s fascination with Adrian only increased when he saw the craftsmanship he brought to the tailoring in his fashion line, which he produced for a decade after leaving MGM in 1941. The second part of the exhibition at SCAD FASH shows the influence Adrian’s tailoring had on Alaïa’s own work.
Alaïa and Adrian are complete perfectionists who both dedicated their lives to their craft, and although they come from different generations, they stayed true to their own artistic identity throughout their careers. That combination is surprisingly unusual and accounts for their huge influence.
What can museum visitors expect to see when they walk through Masters of Cut, and are there a few standout designs to look out for?
Rafael: Visitors can expect to be wowed by a selection of some of Alaïa’s career-defining gowns and admire the expert use of leather and knits that he somehow elevates to stand-alone pieces of art. Iconic dresses worn by Tina Turner, Grace Jones, and Naomi Campbell are not to be missed! For the lovers of fashion history and the fashion-focused, the impeccably tailored looks and the intricate detailing of Adrian’s suits are a true delight. Adrian’s place in popular culture was secured when he designed all of the costumes for the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz. In our film salon, adjacent to the exhibition, visitors can see a pair of authorized replicas of Dorothy Gale’s ruby slippers!
For more information on the exhibition, visit https://www.scadfash.org/
This is article is a sponsored collaboration with Savannah College of Art and Design.